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The Spook

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Mayor: What do we got?
Jim Gordon: Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name... no other alias.
The Dark Knight, regarding The Joker

Nothing Is Scarier than someone you know nothing about. He has nothing to identify him, nothing that even states that he is real. If this person simply disappears, you are terrified because you don't know if he is watching. Sometimes he is established as a myth, a ghost story to scare people. This person lacks not only a past, but also a present and a future. He just is, and you don't know why.

The Spook is someone whose identity is a paradox, they exist but don't exist at the same time. No one can prove that he is there except by showing someone the warm body, if you even have it. If a name is given it is likely to be Shrouded in Myth; you can't be certain of anything you hear about them but you don't want to underestimate them all the same. Or they may use an obvious pseudonym like Mr. Smith.


In some cases, this may overlap with a Legacy Character: the myth is more important than the person.

All There in the Manual may have extra information that is confirmed by Word of God, but that doesn't count: this is about how this character is perceived by others. What matters is how the characters in the story behave in regard to the stranger. If the people in the story know all about the character, then it does not qualify as The Spook even if the audience knows nothing.

This kind of character is often seen as either an Enigmatic Minion, or the guy the villains (or even the heroes) bring in to do the job right... even if they don't know what they're dealing with. Also frequently The Nondescript.

The reason The Spook is such a mysterious character is that the story treats the lack of information of the guy as a mystery, i.e attention is drawn to it and in universe characters point them out and become curious. If this doesn't happen, he's probably just a Bit Character that isn't intended to be memorable.


Compare The Faceless, but The Faceless is only important based around the eventual reveal (whether or not they actually have a face). The Spook will usually remain an enigma even if caught and defeated. Also compare The Men in Black, who are often mooks with this characteristic, and The Cowl, when a hero tries to be this to the villains. The Chessmaster can sometimes be a Spook and combined with this trope makes them all the scarier. Finally, compare/contrast Unperson, where someone else does this to a person as a form of punishment. See also Outside-Context Problem, which appears out of nowhere, and Diabolus ex Nihilo, a villain without any backstory.

Not to be confused with The Shadow, The Ghost, Silly Spook, or especially The Spock. Nor to be confused with the Spook from The Wizard of Id.

Not to be confused with the word's use as a slur towards black people, nor its philosophical sense (mainly in association with branches of anarchism and nihilism) referring to abstract social constructs.


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  • Never Say No to Panda: The Panda itself. It instantaneously appears out of the blue. We know nothing of its origins or if it's supernatural or anything else.

    Anime and Manga 
  • All members of ACROSS in Excel Saga must maintain this secrecy to ignorant citizens, which is why they can only get temp jobs.
    • Much of the manga is a comical Deconstruction of the trope, noting how difficult it is actually to live without any kind of identifications, steady job or social security. The protagonists end up getting mistaken for illegal immigrants several times over.
  • Dabi from My Hero Academia. To the heroes and the villains alike, Dabi just shows up out of nowhere with a powerful Quirk and a relentless desire to burn down hero society. Nobody actually knows what his Quirk is called, what his vision of a "brighter future" is, or even where he comes from. Hawks even tried to look into him specifically and came up with nothing. In actuality, he is Toya Todoroki, Endeavor's presumed dead son, and his dyed hair and burn scars prevented people from finding out his identity until he went public about being Endeavor's son in order to ruin Endeavor's reputation.
  • L, Mello and Near from Death Note. Justified, as the titular notebook can kill anyone whose name is written in it. Thus, the only people who could challenge the Death Note's user would be those with entirely unknown names.
    • Light Yagami initially becomes a spook when he gets his Death Note from Ryuk—a mysterious killer with the ability to kill off anyone in the world, location be damned, so long as he knows the real name of his victim. He exacts the power of the Death Note enough that the world notices the sequential killings and dubs the culprit "Kira." That would've been the end of it, had Light not fallen for a trap set out by L by writing down the name "Lind L. Taylor," a man being used as a decoy proxy for the real L. Taking the bait allows L to start hunting him down relentlessly (and narrows down Kira's location from "anywhere on Earth" to "somewhere in Japan", since L played a hunch that Kira was in the same nation as his first known victim and had "Lind L. Taylor" broadcast his ultimatum to Kira in Japan only while falsely claiming it was a worldwide broadcast), opening the biggest can of worms he'll ever know.
  • Johan tries to become one in Monster by destroying all traces of his past. Even without him doing that, he essentially is one already due to the circumstances of his birth and upbringing. Finding out how he became the way he is is one of the plot's driving forces.
  • Hazama is this in BlazBlue: Alter Memory. Between attempts to help Noel, Makoto (Hazama's own subordinate, by the by) has been trying to gather information that could link him to the Imperator, and found absolutely jack about him in the NOL database. Whatever justification exists cements to Makoto that Hazama is not to be trusted, and she arranges for a pickup with Sector Seven to get Noel out of Kagutsuchi. It's not a spoiler to say this doesn't work out.
  • The Boss of Passione in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Vento Aureo is a shadowy figure in Italy's criminal underworld who goes to great lengths to ensure his identity remains hidden. These include giving orders to his underlings through a proxy who happens to be his Split Personality, and trying to have the one person who might know his identity killed.

    Comic Books 
  • The Octopus in The Spirit. In the entire run of the series, neither the heroes, the villains, nor anyone else ever saw his face or learned who he was. In his first appearance, he ran through fire to avoid revealing his identity.
  • Mr. Nobody in Spider-Girl. Even when he's apprehended by the police, it's found that he literally has no fingerprints and that what was thought to be a full facial mask is apparently his actual face.
  • The Boys: The unnamed Vought-American exec is this. The Homelander, a Kryptonian-class superhuman, is more than a little scared of this apparently ordinary human; even half-jokingly theorizing that the executive might be some sort of quintessential corporate lifeform.
  • Cobra Commander in IDW's G.I. Joe comics. We never learn his name, facial appearance, or backstory only receiving vague suggestions. It's implied that he may actually be "Chimera", a villain the Joes encountered years ago, having survived his battle with them and taken a new identity but even this is conjecture. And later it's revealed he's not even a singular person, just the most recent holder of the title. There's been hundreds of Cobra Commanders throughout human history, each more inscrutable than the last. After the Commander we started with is shot dead, he's replaced by a nameless man called "Krake" in under a month.
  • Spider-Man villain Façade, a professional thief/merc who wields a powerful suit of biomechanical armor. He's most well-known for killing off Lance Bannon, one of Spider-Man's longtime allies and to this day we've never learned his identity or backstory (the evidence given narrowed it to about two possible suspects but we're never told which is correct). It's become an enduring mystery that's haunted Spidey ever since they first fought. In-Universe, the only people who know are Façade himself and Norman Osborn, who probably isn't interested in telling.
    • This one is rather notable in that he initially wasn't planned to be the Spook, but became one after the writer's plans were derailed by The Clone Saga.
  • In V for Vendetta, Finch discusses this trope with Susan. V had killed all Larkhill personnel that tortured him. The interesting part is that the only proof the government has of that story is the documents V had left for them to find. What if this is just a smokescreen? What if this was done not as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but to erase all proof of V's past? What if this is only the beginning of something greater? How can they hope to stop him?
  • Diabolik started out as this before some of his past started being discovered. In the Alternate Continuity DK, his counterpart, known as the Shadow of the Night, is this, to the point that he doesn't even have a name (Shadow of the Night is how some people call the urban legend based on him).
  • The Joker has a revolving door of backstories, which makes it unknown who he is, where he came from, and what made him the way he isnote . Most depictions hold that due to his insanity, the Joker himself doesn't even know which of his backstories is real. And prefers it that way. Because of this, some writers depict him as a literal and/or figurative avatar of madness and chaos.
  • Count Dracula in American Vampire is portrayed this way. Rather than identified as Vlad the Impaler (the real-life inspiration for the character), his origins are unknown and is theorized to have been a pig-farmer rather than the infamous nobleman. Having said that, he is generally agreed to have been Romanian due to being the creator of the Carpathian bloodline, which became the most numerous of all vampire strains in the world.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Spook which is filled with spies and ghosts who come out of the shadows and become fully fleshed out, but also permanently mysterious characters like Mr. Nobody and the ghost he controls.

    Fan Works 
  • As The Games We Play progresses, Jaune begins to realize that he knows terrifyingly, worryingly little about who Ozpin really is. Even gaining a True Sight ability doesn't help.
  • A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor provides a very justified, main protagonist example. Due to the fact that she comes from a completely different world, there is absolutely no knowledge or information on Arturia prior to the explosion at the Conclave where she is the Sole Survivor of the cataclysmic event that killed everyone else present, meaning that there is absolutely NO way to get any information anywhere on her in Thedas other than anything she does in present time. This is something that greatly worries and disturbs BOTH her allies and enemies.
  • The first Big Bad of the Pony POV Series Loneliness is this. Even several season after her demise, no one, not even Trixie (who's mind she was dwelling in) knows what she really was or where she came from, or even if she was real. Even her name and gender are just conjecture, as Twilight names her Loneliness and as she's a shapeshifter, the only evidence of a gender at all is her Shapeshifter Default Form is female and it's not clear if any of the forms she assumes are her real one, if she even has one.
  • In Vale's Underground, Cinder Fall is changed into this because "Cinder" is an alias in this version. No one actually knows her real name and she took many precautions to make sure this trope was in effect for her. Salem is even more mysterious and all we know is that she has a past with Cinder. Subverted in Chapter 14 for the readers when we learn a lot more about them. However, no one else (currently) knows it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Joker was portrayed this way in The Dark Knight. He had no Backstory, and was only "The Joker", nothing more elaborate but nothing to diminish the personality. The premise of the movie was that the heroes have to deal with someone they had no damn clue about. They could not anticipate what he was going to do, and that is why he was so effective. In Batman Begins, the League of Shadows nearly put Gotham into a riot because of poisonous gas, while the Joker nearly did the same thing just from the legend he established for himself.
    • Incidentally, this is also what makes Batman so scary to the bad guys. He's essentially the Joker, but wearing a mask and acting against the villains. The difference, that Sal Maroni makes clear, is that Batman is The Fettered. Once they figure out his "one rule" Batman's status as this is diminished. The Joker has absolutely no rules.
  • Keyser Söze of The Usual Suspects was something similar to this. The nature of the movie made his shadow-ness even more obscure and vague. But even with the things confirmed by the police interrogators, Söze was someone who has never had a confirmed sighting, regarded as a myth, has multiple versions of his backstory and you don't know what is fact or fiction about him.
  • This is what is often overlooked in the Terminator movies because of the Time Travel and evil robot sci-fi, but the original movie was primarily a person being hunted by someone she knew nothing about, even the reason why she was being hunted.
  • When you join the Men in Black, you become one of these people.
    From now on you'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You'll not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter.
  • Jason Bourne is an example of the "made anonymous by support from powerful intelligence agency" variety.
    • All the field members of Treadstone are made to become this. And with Bourne losing his memory, it shows what happens when one of these people do a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, who grew up as a gardener for a rich old man who had secluded himself and Chance from the outside world. After his master dies, and he has to go out in the world, he becomes a mysterious figure without a past.
  • The Serial Killer from Se7en has removed all traces of his identity and goes by the alias John Doe, because he believes that the message he's trying to send through his killings is important, not himself.
  • In Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, the bad guys refer to Remo as "The Faceless Wonder" because they can find absolutely no information on him at all other than a picture and the fact that he's interfering with their nefarious scheme.
  • The whoever-it-is who keeps showing up and giving cryptic advice to Bruce Willis' character in 12 Monkeys.
  • Cobb from Following. The police have no record of his existence, and he tricks his fall guy into dressing and looking just like him. The final shot of the film is Cobb stepping into a bustling street and completely disappearing.
  • Harry thinks Chad is this in Burn After Reading.
  • Ernst Stavro Blofeld is this is the James Bond movies. He is one of the few Bond villains to be given no backstory whatsoever, either from his own lips or from a government dossier. This is not the case in the novels the films were based on, however.
  • The villain of The Hitcher is called a ghost because there is nothing that identifies him.
  • The Operative from Serenity
    Dr Mathias: I see no listing of name or rank.
    The Operative: I have neither. Like this facility, I don't exist.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness portrays Section 31 as this. All of their doings are very hush-hush and under the table, while some of its operatives, like John Harrison/Khan, are given false identities to hide their true nature.
  • In No Country for Old Men, practically nothing is known about the relentless assassin, Anton Chigurh. The only thing we know is his name, maybe.
    Accountant: Are you going to shoot me?
    Anton: That depends. Do you see me?
  • None of the other characters know anything about Harry Roat, the villain of Wait Until Dark, other than the fact that he is a sociopath who feigns pleasantries with his victims. Harry Roat, incidentally, is an alias.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the titular antagonist. Natasha literally calls him a "ghost," and notes that most of the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists. Nobody knew anything about him or who really he was until Steve saw his face and realized that he was Bucky, who didn't recognize him. From there, he was able to deduce how Bucky ended up as the Winter Soldier.
  • Josef in Creep. The Police Are Useless to Aaron because he can't give any concrete information on Josef's name, age, location, or any other identifying details.
  • The Caller in Phone Booth is a complete mystery. He doesn't identify himself or reveal anything about his past (beyond how no, his parents didn't abuse him, he had a "very" happy childhood, and no he wasn't in Vietnam, he's younger than that), and even his face isn't seen until the end.




  • Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (his chosen alias literally means "no one" in Latin).
  • American Gods features an amorphous collective of Spooks in the form of the Spookshow, created by people's belief in The Men in Black. Because they're Anthropomorphic Personifications of Conspiracy Theories and not agents of any particular conspiracy, they have a vague idea at best of what their purpose is, which ends up making them all the more dangerous. There's also the nameless man in the charcoal suit, whose true identity is never revealed because everyone forgets who he is.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Big Bad in The Silver Chair (the fourth book published, and the sixth in terms of In-Universe chronology) is a Diabolus ex Nihilo with no backstory. All we really know is that she used her Voluntary Shapeshifting and Mind Manipulation abilities to seize power Beneath the Earth and now seeks to expand into Narnia, and that she could be somehow connected to the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • This is what makes the title character from The Day of the Jackal a perfect assassin as he's not listed in the extensive files of the French security service, and a major part of the novel involves getting a lead of who he might be, so they can start to track him down. At one point the British authorities think they've nailed him down as a man called Charles Calthrop, but he's revealed to be a completely unrelated businessman whose identity was likely stolen by the Jackal for one of his assignments. Even his country of origin is never confirmed — while referred to as an Englishman, the Jackal successfully impersonates several other nationalities.
  • The Demon Headmaster is the unassuming head of a small comprehensive school who just happens to have mind-control powers and an obsession with bringing the world into perfect, emotionless order. We know absolutely nothing about how he got these abilities, where he comes from, or what his real name is - everyone just calls him "the Headmaster". Even in "Takes Over", when his amnesiac clone's main goal is simply to learn what his name is, we still don't learn it ourselves.
  • Point Horror: Julian from The Boy Next Door. He simply appears in the seemingly abandoned house next door to Randy and she knows very little about him.
  • In Renegades, Phobia is a complete mystery, even to his Anarchist teammates. He never told anyone his name, no-one knows how he acquired his ability or where he came from, and even what he looks like is uncertain, as he's a Voluntary Shapeshifter who sticks to the shadows.
  • Spy School: Leo Shang, the Big Bad of book four is described as having just appeared on China's business scene with millions of dollars five years ago, and no one has been able to find out a thing about his past.
  • In Tuck Everlasting, the Big Bad is a genteel, polite person known only as "the man in the yellow suit". He does provide some backstory for his quest — as a child, his parents sheltered a family that told tales of the mother's former husband and his own kin, who never aged a day — and has clear goals in selling the magical spring water that generates said immorality (apparently choosing to ignore the horrific implications of what will happen when the secret gets out), but other than that, he's a blank: no name, no past, no relatives, no presence...nothing. Author Natalie Babbitt encouraged this characterization in an interview, and even explained that she deliberately avoided giving him a red or black suit for fear of people interpreting the man as Louis Cypher or The Grim Reaper; she elaborated that she put him in yellow to create a natural cadence for the repeated phrase "the man in the yellow suit".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Burn Notice invokes this several times. One of Michael's plans was based around infiltrating a family of gun dealers by playing off of one of the brothers. By skillfully stealing their supplies, he then simply dropped off the face of the Earth. He explained that nothing scares you more than a spook, someone you know nothing about. He could have been FBI, a rival group, the Mafia; the point was they didn't know who he was and if he was going to return. The group was so spooked, they left the city.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor was this for much of the original series' run, as very little about his origins or his true identity were ever dwelt upon. On several occasions he's taken steps to remove himself from the historic record. The "Cartmel Masterplan" was supposed to restore this aspect by gradually Retconning what was already revealed about the Doctor to be a lie and that he was actually a more powerful figure than he appears, but it was derailed by the show's cancellation.
    • "Midnight": The Midnight Creature. No one, not even the Doctor, knows what it is, only that it is able to survive on a planet with a super-deadly atmosphere, possess a human being, and mimic others to the point of stealing their voices. Ever since the episode's airing, there have been theories about this entity.
    • The Silence. Once you look away from them, you forget that they even exist. They often use this ability to plant commands in people's subconscious.
  • Fargo: Lorne Malvo of season 1. We're given essentially zero information about him. "Lorne Malvo" probably isn't even his real name. The most we ever learn is that he claims to have been in Alaska at one point. That's it.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015):
      • Matt's initial conflict with Wilson Fisk is complicated by the fact that Fisk is a spook, due to having carefully covered up every trace of his past.
      • We don't know anything about James Wesley's past outside of his being Fisk's best friend and right hand.
    • The Punisher (2017):
      • Frank Castle considers Micro to be a complete spook at first, and it isn't until he gets Karen Page to dig up some information that he starts to warm up to working with the man.
      • Lampshaded in "Kandahar", where Billy Russo comments about how the fearless leader he and Frank work for never even gave his name, although apparently others call him "Agent Orange". Of course, Billy is working with Agent Orange a.k.a. William "Bill" Rawlins III.
  • Person of Interest
    • The Villain of the Week in the episode "Last Call", who calls a 911 dispatcher and forces her to erase their records under the threat of harming a child he's kidnapped, all while projecting a persona of amiable professionalism. Fans dubbed him "The Voice" because we never see him (though we do when he returns in the final season).
    • Harold Finch is this In-Universe, due to the elaborate steps he's taken to protect his identity or even his existence (even though he's a major character, we never discover his true name). On finally meeting face-to-face with Special Counsel, the latter describes Finch as being like a black hole, exerting an unseen and powerful influence.
  • Spooks, aptly enough. Although we, the audience, know quite a bit about the MI-5 officers, the regular people they interact with are regularly fed fake identities, fake credentials, and fake beliefs.
  • The Greek of The Wire. By the end of the series, we only know one thing about him: he's not really Greek.
  • Pick pretty much any member of the shadow government on The X-Files (particularly Deep Throat and X). The Cigarette Smoking Man is the only one that we ever learn anything about and what we know is vague and occasionally contradictory.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • LLF had spent half a decade carving out a niche in Monterrey by introducing new foreign talent to Mexico, then one night in 2005 a woman whom no one knew anything about appeared with the goal of destroying them. It was only later that more information would surface on Tsunami.
  • Midsummer 2010, PGWA was visited by a masked woman calling herself Hecate who claimed to be from Mexico. An inquiry was sent to LLF at the start of 2011, as by that point it had booked talent from all over Mexico but none of them had heard of her either.
  • Los Abusadores Internacional in Valkyrie Women's Pro. No one knows who they are or where they came from, just that they're devoted to La Rosa Negra and even though there aren't very many of them, they have connections to people] whom only slightly more is known about. Subverted though in that they can call on intimidating individuals but are not themselves.

  • Of all people, The Shadow was, in his original continuity, one of these. His secret identity was so secret that even the audience didn't know who he was, leading to much Wild Mass Guessing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Thanks to the Arcane Fate, the Sidereals of Exalted turn this Up to Eleven. Not only are they completely unknown to the vast majority of Creation's inhabitants, but within a week or two of meeting them, you will forget them. And any records of their existence will be lost, accidentally destroyed, vanish mysteriously, or otherwise be rendered useless. A Sidereal could murder your parents right in front of you, and in a month you wouldn't be able to pick them out of a lineup or even remember the incident clearly—were they even murdered at all, or was it a freak accident of some kind?
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Dark Angels Space Marines are served by the indigenous population of The Rock, the Watchers In The Dark. They are covered head to toe in robes, and have never let anyone see what's underneath. Ever. Games Workshop's official models for them don't have heads, just hollow hoods. Librarians can't probe them because they resist all psychic powers and forms of Warp contact. Are they aliens? Undead spirits of the Fallen forced to serve penance? The latter is unlikely, considering that people of Caliban have encounters with them before the Fallen are even conceived of, but otherwise... they're the only ones with answers, and they literally ain't talking.
  • The GURPS Advantage "Zeroed", created for GURPS Cyberpunk and popular in conspiracy games, makes a PC the Spook.
  • The Occultation ability in Mage: The Awakening opposes any attempt to uncover a mage's identity: magical inquiries are resisted and mundane records mysteriously vanish. The Blank Badges Legacy refine this into the ability to use their Occultation score as Status, so people see them as authoritative and respectable but have no idea why or who they are.

    Video Games 
  • Albatross and Steven Heck in Alpha Protocol. The dossiers you build on them are about 90% conjecture.
    • Albatross is the head of an entire organisation of spooks: G22 oppose Halbech and have dirt on nearly everyone, but anything beyond that is pure guesswork. Unless the player gives them away, the Big Bad (and thus Alpha Protocol itself) doesn't know they even exist.
    • Steven Heck, on the other hand, is on a class of his own due to not really being tied to any organization at all; he claims he's a CIA agent, but further investigation shows no proper agenda or ties with them. In fact, he'll be loyal to you and do as you ask so long as you don't piss him off because he doesn't have any plans or orders you could screw up. Some theorize he is simply a complete lunatic who started playing Wannabe Secret Agent one day and became scarily good at it.
  • The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins. He comes completely out of nowhere and after finding his DNA at the site of a particularly brutal murder, Batman puts it through the National Criminal Database to find out who he is, and comes up completely blank. No name, no true origin outside of a flashback that may or may not be accurate, and no real motives. Batman and Alfred are both completely taken aback by this.
  • Zer0 from Borderlands 2. What's his real name? What is he doing on Pandora? What does he look like? Is he even human, or is he an alien or a robot? Nobody really knows. Not even Jack's subordinates really know. And if the devs have any say in it, nobody ever will.
    • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! has "The Watcher", an extremely enigmatic alien who resembles but is distinct from the Guardians encountered throughout the series.
  • Darkest Dungeon: In a way, the Collector qualifies. Every other beast, abomination and opponent you find in the Estate has an explanation of some sort, either being the Ancestor's fault in one way or the other, or just having arrived in the middle of the misery and Eldritch happenings, wanting a piece of either that or the supposedly defenseless Hamlet. Even the Shambler, tentacular horror from beyond, is documented well enough that its summoning rituals are well known. Not the Collector, however. The Hamlet? They haven't heard of it at all. The missions given by the Caretaker? None bring it up. The Ancestor? He has nothing on it. The man who meticulously documented every travesty going on and had plenty to write and comment on from beyond the grave has nothing to say but an unnerved description whenever this head-seeking horror shows up. Its modus operandi, its attacks and all the rest don't link it to any other group in the game either. All you know is that it came from somewhere to seek heads to add to its endless collection, and that those of your heroes will do just fine.9 Other than collecting the fallen, the Collector has no apparent stake in the Darkest Estate's fate or events in the least, and it's unknown if there even is a connection between That Which Came from the Portal and itself.
  • Flemeth from Dragon Age. With the revelations (or lack thereof) in Witch Hunt and Dragon Age II, we really know nothing definitive about her at all. She goes mostly by Flemeth but she also has many names, she looks human but this is cast into great doubt by Morrigan, Fenris, and Anders. Her past is Shrouded in Myth, with no clear way to know if it's true. And on top of all of this, her powers and precognition are at a level that aren't seen anywhere else in the series. Her motivations are also completely unknown, but hints are dropped that it is on a scale outside of any other in the franchise. Her identity is revealed in Dragon Age: Inquisition: She's a human vessel for the Elven Top God Mythal.
  • Alvaro Vasquez in Driver 2 is stated to have no known information, not even a driver's license. The captain giving orders to Tanner and Jones claims "Maybe he don't even exist. Maybe he's just a name."
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Legate Lanius is a walking mystery. Throughout the game, you hear multiple accounts of his past, none of which match up with each other, and you never learn if any of them are true. Many characters will note that they have no idea who he is, including Joshua Graham. Hints are dropped that he’s not even a singular person; nobody has ever seen his face or figured out his true origins, so he may simply be a Legacy Character made up by Caesar to act as figurehead. In an interesting Deconstruction, it’s noted that his Spook status is both his strength and his weakness; his near-mythic image has been carefully crafted over the years and is pretty much all that holds his army together. To defeat him, you need only convince him that he has a high chance of failing a task, at which point he’ll bow out to save face rather risk his Spook reputation.
  • Fallout 4 companion and Railroad operative Deacon is this, even to his own organization. If he's the same person as the "John D." mentioned in some terminal entries, Deacon has been with the group for as far back as its current records go - at least a decade longer than its current leadership - and is largely responsible for its current cell structure. But his nominal boss Desdemona is exasperated that Deacon is still keeping secrets from her, and disappears for extended periods pursuing his own missions. He's a Master of Disguise who will change his outfit based on what faction controls his current surroundings, and even regularly undergoes Magic Plastic Surgery to change his face and reduce the odds that he's recognized. It doesn't help that Deacon constantly and unapologetically lies, from exaggerating the size of the opposition after a mission, to claiming that Dez is a Decoy Leader and he's really in charge, or that he's an escaped Synth. He acts as a Trickster Mentor to the Player Character, testing your gullibility, but if you reach max affinity with him he'll drop the bullshit and give what might be a true account of his past.
  • Fatal Frame as a series has extremely detailed backstories regarding the ghosts that the player encounters over the course of the games. Then there's the Tall Woman in Maiden of Black Water. Unlike the other ghosts she is clearly inhuman, being absurdly tall with incredibly long limbs and with a perpetual, unsettling grin on her face. Her entry has no details of why she's on the mountain, where she came from, or what she is. What makes it even more disturbing is while the other ghosts are based on onryou which are malevolent, but in more of a local phenomenon sense, the Tall Woman is clearly actively hunting the player characters.
  • The Serial Killer seen and mentioned throughout the backstory of the Five Nights at Freddy's series - it's not known why he killed kids, why he used Freddy Fazbear's Pizza in particular, or why he decided to return to the shutdown pizzeria to dismantle the animatronics. He's never even seen in person outside of a purple Atari-esque sprite in various minigames (until the third game, but by then he's a mummified corpse with few identifiable features left). Most of this mystery was lost with later games (which gave him a name and some backstory), but much of his motives remain unclear.
  • Mike Toreno in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Even his name is suspect, since he was working undercover when CJ was introduced to him.
    • The U.L. Paper Contact from Grand Theft Auto IV is an even better example: not only does he never give out his name but when Niko asks if he's worried that Niko will get caught and lead the authorities to him, the Contact calmly explains that they're inside a building with hundreds of people matching his description and that by the time Niko rats him out to the cops, they will find an empty office "leased to a man who died in the final years of Vietnam" and a non existent phone number.
  • The G-Man from the Half-Life series. All that is known about "him" is that he's working for some unknown "employers", handles Gordon's (and presumably others') "contracts" with said employers, has ties to the Black Mesa incident and the Resonance Cascade, is opposed by the Vortigaunts, and is clearly not human.
  • In Halo, operatives from the Office of Naval Intelligence get this trope name as a nickname for the exact reasons mentioned here. Reflecting this, The Men in Black-esque organization itself is more commonly referred to as ONI, a wordplay on a certain Youkai type. Additionally, for the majority of the Human-Covenant War, the Master Chief himself and his fellow Spartans were this to most people on both sides.
  • Zero from Kirby's Dream Land 3 is given no foreshadowing, no motive, no origin, and no clear goal, but his fight and death sequence is quite possibly the most terrifying boss fight in the entire Kirby franchise.
  • Klonoa: Most villains in the series have a backstory or some sort of details about their origin. But despite being the most recurring villain, Joka's origin is completely unknown. Nobody knows what exactly he is, where he came from, or how or why he came to work for Ghadius (and later other villains.) It's not even clear just how powerful he is on his own.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The eponymous mask from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is an odd variation. You know the gist of its background (standard Sealed Evil in a Can stuff) but the sheer amount of Mind Screw going on around it makes it unknowable. The Happy Mask Salesman, while apparently a good guy, is a straighter example. All you really learn about him is that he's on your side and he would really want his mask back. Other than that, it's only implications that never lead to anything concrete.
    • Nothing is revealed about the Ghost Ship from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It's a ship that always shows up by certain islands based on the phase of the moon, and can only be entered when holding a certain chart (not having the chart will just cause it to vanish as Link approaches). The ship itself contains a number of undead enemies in its interior, and once it is completed, it is never seen again.
  • Metroid:
    • Sylux from Metroid Prime: Hunters. While the other 5 hunters in the game are given a little backstory and reasons to hunt the Ultimate Power, all we know about it is that it hates the Galactic Federation, and Samus by proxy.
    • Gandrayda, the Shapeshifting Bounty Hunter from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. According to her scan, her backstory, including her homeworld and exact age, are unknown to the Galactic Federation. They don't even know anything definite about her species aside from its similarities to the inhabitants of Jovia XII.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, the villain of the final case turns out to be a Master of Disguise known only as the phantom, able to perfectly impersonate anyone... to the point where all traces of their original identity are completely gone. We never learn their real name or see their real face: they're always shown wearing a mask of someone else. They feel no emotions except fear of being caught. Their Villainous Breakdown has them freaking out about their "real face" not even existing as they pull off masks of nearly every other character in the game. They collapse into the shadows after removing the final one, so no-one ever finds out what they really look like.
  • Pikmin:
    • The Smoky Progg, a Bonus Boss from the first game. If you reach one of the last areas before Day 15, there will be a giant egg hidden away that, if you damage it without destroying it, will hatch into a Walking Wasteland monster that can somehow uproot planted Pikmin by roaring at them and kills Pikmin instantly with its black fog. The manual indicates that its egg would have hatched into a Mamuta if it had been left alone, but considering the fact that the adult Mamuta seen in the first two games are practically harmless compared to the Progg, and the fact that the Mamuta themselves are kind of odd creatures in their own right, this only raises more questions.
    • In a game where most of the enemies are animal-based and go for a "natural" angle, the Waterwraith of Pikmin 2 stands out as something unusual. It is oddly humanoid, ghost-like, the only boss in the entire game that actively chases the player characters long before reaching its arena, and it is somehow completely invincible unless Purple Pikmin are tossed on it. And Purple Pikmin have not demonstrated any especially odd quirks aside from being heavier and stronger than the other Pikmin types. Nothing is revealed about it and Olimar suspects that the entire experience might have been some kind of hallucination.
    • The Plasm Wraith of Pikmin 3 shares many traits of the Waterwraith, in addition to having a bizarre obsession with capturing Olimar. It's a large humanoid of some sort of gold plasm that can generate fire, crystal, electricity, and even water from it. And the "other enemies" in its area are made of the same material as it, hinting that it's some powerful shape-shifter that can effectively act as many different beings at once.
  • Q from Street Fighter III is a mysterious figure wearing a trenchcoat, fedora and iron mask. His true name, origin, and motivation for fighting are all unknown. It's not even clear if he's a human being, since he tends to move in a very robotic manner. All that is known about him is that the CIA is after him, and that he appears in photos from around the world, and at similar times, implying that Q might just be one of many.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Pyro has no backstory, name, face, or set gender. The fact that s/he just loves burning things is all we know for sure. Even after learning in "Meet the Pyro" that The Pyro thinks that everything s/he does is give candy and happiness to other people (which s/he imagines as cupids and other such cute creatures), we still don't know anything about their Back Story. Or anything else. The only reason s/he's on the team in the first place is because s/he's insane enough to do what s/he's asked (that is, mercilessly kill the other team); Pyro's own teammates are scared of him/her/it.
      The Heavy: I fear no man...but that scares me.
      The Scout: I ain't talkin' about that freak, all right? He's not here, is she? How do I get this (microphone-thump)ing thing off?!
      The Spy: One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie behind that mask...what dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty?
    • The Spy is a downplayed example - we know he's from somewhere in France, and we know that he's a Man of Wealth and Taste with an immature streak, but we don't know his name or backstory, and his accent is pretty obscure too.
  • The Devil Z from Tokyo Xtreme Racer is an unknown rival that only appears when the player beats every last racer in the game. Everything about him/her/it is shrouded in mystery to the point where he/she/it's beginning cutscene heavily implies that he/she/it might be a demon or a ghost. The rivals index only labels him/her as ???? and gives a description about his/her/it's 280 Z's performance tune-up. Info on the driver? Absolutely none.
  • Yume Nikki: There's no explanation for anything whatsoever, no Back Story, no dialogue, nothing. Madotsuki, the main (and only) character is a Hikikomori in a flat. She keeps a very trippy dream diary. The building she lives in is apparently only as wide as her flat. Who is she? What is she? How did she come to be there? Where does she get those ideas and dreams from? Is one of Madotsuki's dream characters based on a piano teacher? Is another based on a friend? Is said friend dead? Is another based on a horribly mutilated and/or bullied girl? Is the highly sexual Kyuukyuu-kun based on rape or something? She's basically Mesme without the Psychic Powers. It is safe to say that this singular character has spawned Epileptic Forests on her own. The ending of the game itself leaves all questions unanswered, leaving things open to interpretation: Madotsuki commits suicide by jumping off her balcony by using stairs that were never there. Your guess is as good as ours.
    • Even the creator of the game, KIKIYAMA, is this. Do the ideas for Yume Nikki come from alchohol, drugs, a very twisted imagination or a completely normal person who just wanted to make a scary game? There are a few emails that indicate she is female, however.

    Web Original 
  • We may know a great deal about the Slender Man and what he does, but even then there is no way to know his true nature/origin without being taken or worse, especially as he is said to change depending on the mind encountering him. He is everywhere and nowhere. By believing in him you open the door. Attempts to capture or study him almost always go hideously wrong. Marble Hornets gives a possible origin story for him but it's left highly ambiguous if it's true or not. note  His eyes are closed, his mouth is open, and his arms are outstretched.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • In one of his possible origins, SCP-106 wasn't always a horribly-decayed old man, but his origins don't explain nearly as much as some would wish. It's known he was a soldier in one of WWI's bloodier fronts, but no one knew where he came from, why he got transferred to that particular front, and he left no paper trail of any kind that could link him to anything. No one saw him send, or receive any letters from anyone, either. Some of the soldiers thought Corporal Lawrence was less of a man, and more of a curse on their unit, even if he seemed entirely human, only slightly off about it. It's unknown if he was simply another nameless body in the trenches that found his fate in a dark, gore-encrusted tar pit or if there was always something abnormal to him, but there are no records of him before those days, and only one picture of him at all, and it was from the trenches themselves.
    • ●●|●●●●●|●●|● is a Humanoid Abomination that steals anything with word-based information about itself and anyone that talks about it and cannot be contained as it can pass through walls. Because of this behavior, almost nothing is known about the creature. Fortunately, it can't understand pictures, meaning that the Foundation was able to draft an article for it out of pictograms, and its SCP number is written in dots and lines.

    Western Animation 
  • Combustion Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The heroes don't know his name, never heard him speak (the only noises he makes are grunts which aren't even credited by a voice actor), and know nothing about his past. In their first encounter with him, they only escaped by the skin of their teeth. Zuko apparently knows more about him (name, past, etc.) but his portrayal is that of a relentless shadow.
    • From the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, absolutely nothing is known about the Big Bad, Amon. He gave a backstory but whether it's true or not is up for debate. We don't know what he looks like, what his real name is (if Amon isn't his real name), we don't know what exactly he does to take away peoples' bending or how he even has the ability, we don't know if he's being honest about his intentions or if he has ulterior motives, and we don't know how he's able to resist bloodbending. That is, until the Book One season finale.
  • The White Shadow from The Boondocks. He's an unnamed government agent who is only ever seen by Huey Freeman (a paranoid conspiracy theorist), who gave him the nickname of "White Shadow" in the first place. The White Shadow talks to Huey, but as he's supposed to be a secret agent after all, we know nothing about his background. Huey even wonders whether the Shadow is actually a real person, or just a paranoid delusion.
  • The DCAU Joker also has elements of this, especially in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. We actually see what he was like before he fell in the vat of chemicals: a nameless, voiceless, perpetually smirking mob hitman who might just be creepier than the Monster Clown he turned into. He sparks a good chunk of the plot by killing Andrea Beaumont's father.
  • Samurai Jack is plagued by a shadowy samurai on horseback (aka "the Omen") throughout Season 5. There's no explanation as to who or what it is, only that it shows up whenever Jack draws near the Despair Event Horizon, and Jack can only flee in terror at the sight.
  • Teen Titans:
    • The cartoon version of Slade ends up as this. Unlike his comics incarnation, we never learn his backstory or see his face under the mask. Instead of a hitman, he's an aloof mastermind figure whose only clear goals seem to be finding an apprentice and crushing the Titans' hopes.
    • The show also has the Ensemble Dark Horse Red-X. Originally, the Red-X persona was used by Robin to go undercover in a (failed) bid to find out Slade's real identity, but the high-tech, highly weaponized suit was later stolen from Titan's Tower by an unknown thief who uses it to commit high-end burglaries. Throughout the show, the team encounters him all of twice and they never find out who he is, or how he was able to steal the suit. Word of God is mum on subject, but the most common theory (though by no-means the only) is that he is really Jason Todd.
      Raven: Face it. Red-X could be anyone. Anyone smart enough to find the suit, and dumb enough to take it for a joy ride.

    Real Life 
  • The Somerton Man. His corpse was found in 1948 on Somerton beach in Adelaide, Australia. More than 70 years later, his identity or the circumstances that led to his death are still unknown.
  • Dan "D. B." Cooper is the only known name of an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in 1971. After he received his ransom money, he parachuted from the rear stairs and no trace of him has been seen since.
  • If The Disaster Artist is to be believed, nobody actually knows where the hell Tommy Wiseau came from, where he got that accent, and why he had enough money to fund The Room on his own, not to mention squander it in reckless decisions; even his age remains a mystery to all but Tommy himself. Greg Sestero, who wrote the book, co-starred with Tommy in The Room, and is personal friends with him, offered detailed claims into Tommy's origins that allegedly come from both Tommy's immigration papers and statements he made to Sestero, but these have never been verified following the book's publication. xkcd meanwhile jokingly proposed that he's actually the aforementioned D. B. Cooper. Not helping is the fact that Tommy is rigidly elusive about his past both in public and in private, with the only real clue from the horse's mouth being a statement in 2017— fourteen years after The Room premiered— that he "grew up in Europe a long time ago."
  • Whoever pulled off the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion probably counts, given that to this day the people responsible have yet to be identified, leaving only their sudden anonymous appearance on television and equally abrupt disappearance to ponder over.
  • The legendary Badass Bystander known only as Tank Man. While several theories have been put forth as to his identity, he is almost certainly dead or imprisoned given the ironfisted authoritarianism of the Chinese government, and he may never be conclusively identified.
  • Plenty of unidentified serial killers, most famously Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer. The Other Wiki has more information than you require.
  • Banksy used to be an example of this trope, but he may have been identified...
  • Several musical artists have cultivated this image. Captain Murphy revealed himself as an alter ego of Steven "Flying Lotus" Ellison, but Doctor Steel, Rucka Rucka Ali, and Leon Redbone remain mysterious (although regarding the latter, at least we know his birth name was Dickran Gobalian).
  • The Man in the Iron Mask.
  • "Deep Throat" was the name given to the informant who provided information to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during the Watergate scandal. His identity was a secret known only to them that they swore they would not reveal until his death, and for years, news agencies and other organizations could only propose theories as to his identity and motivation— some outright refused to believe he existed, given how suspiciously convenient of a figure he was. It wasn't until 2005 that Deep Throat was revealed to be FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, who came forward on his own. He was always the administration's main suspect, given the nature of the information he was doling out, so it's less of a revelation than it looks on the surface.
  • Mullah Mohammed Omar was the infamous terrorist leader of the Taliban, responsible for blowing up the "idolatrous" giant Buddhas in Afghanistan and for granting asylum to Osama bin Laden after 9/11. But unlike bin Laden, very little information about Omar is available to the public. He was very secretive in his lifetime, to the point where only one official photo of him existed for a time. His death from natural causes was only publicly known two years after the fact.
  • "The Phantom of Heilbronn" AKA "The Woman Without a Face" was the name given to a female criminal whose DNA was found in dozens of crime scenes scattered across France, Austria and Germany between 1993 and 2009. The Phantom was apparently involved in everything from murders to burglaries either acting alone or with accomplices. She was never captured on any CCTV camera and accomplices to her crimes would either deny her existence or insist she looked like a man. The German police put out a reward of €300,000 for her capture without success. In 2009 she was finally found to not actually exist. The "Phantom's" DNA belonged to a worker at the factory used to manufacture the cotton swabs used in DNA tests.

Alternative Title(s): The Shadow Character


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